Dear Grandad…

You were absolutely designed to be a Grandad.

You were, in fact, so committed to the role that you weren’t just a Grandfather to your actual grandchildren… Your neighbours, daughter, even friends the same age all refer to you as Grandad.

When me and the other Grandkids were growing up, you were our hero. No one could make us laugh like you, and not just because you let us drink Lambrini with our tea. We would be captivated by your stories, usually about your family, of whom you thought so much. I feel so lucky that my son had the chance to get to know his Great-Grandad, and I promise I will always share your unconventional pearls of wisdom…

Your humour always had a marvellous way of making everything OK… when I was sad about needing braces; you swiftly removed your false teeth and correctly pointed out that, “it could be worse”. When I had got in to trouble for picking my nose and farting in public (we both know where I got that from), you assured me that even the Queen picks her nose, and that if I never trumped I’d explode.

You really did spoil us rotten. Now I’m older I have a much better understanding of how ridiculously amazing it is for you and Grandma to have taken five grandchildren away to Disneyland (I struggle going to the supermarket with one) and I could never have repaid you for your kindness to all of us.

Even in to your senior years, you refused to be the one who needed looking after. When we’d come over to visit, we were always keen to help you both however we could… shopping, cooking, gardening. But you were still so keen to spoil us, we were effectively on a lavish retreat being force fed wine and fry ups (obviously strongly against our will).

There’s so much I will miss about you Grandad… your jokes, your breakfasts, your 25 year old white t-shirt with a thousand holes in it, your side burns and your stories.

But I feel so lucky that you were my Grandad, because you really were the best.

That’s what she said…

It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so horrendously offensive, and yet be totally clueless to it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that when it comes to our little darlings, we can be a little hyper sensitive to every, “Are you sure he should be eating that?” and “I wouldn’t let my child stay up that late.”

But sometimes people just cross the metaphorical line.

The comments in question came from a childless woman so I have been told I should be sympathetic to a lack of understanding. In truth, I have somewhat struggled in the sympathy stakes and have predominantly opted for blind rage as my general response to the following…

“That’s the good thing about you, you’re, like, a cool Mum.”

Ah that’s nice, I thought.

“You know, you don’t always go on about kids and stuff. No one really wants to hear about that, everyone just smiles to be polite.”

Totally with her so far to be honest.

“You know, with most Mums, if anything happened to their kids, they’d never get over it, but you’d be fine and just get on with it.”

Wow.

So it turns out someone actually thinks so little of me as a parent. Never have I been so hurt. Someone I spend a significant amount of time with, seems to believe I’d carry on as normal the day after my son’s passing (which physically hurts to even type).

Of course, the rational part of me listens to my friends when they tell me it’s absolute crap. But I couldn’t help analysing everything I’ve ever said and done to give such a poor impression of me as a Mother. What could I possibly have done to lead to such a shocking assumption?

Aside from the obvious… writing a blog under the name of The Unfit Mother, the only thing I could really think is that I am a working Mum. I go to work. I enjoy work. I strive to succeed in my work. I like having a bit of time to be me, rather than someone’s Mum or wife, so I don’t constantly talk about my home life.

But does that really make me a bad parent?

When I first started writing this post, it was a day or so after the incident. I was initially determined to use this platform to justify my parenting skills and make a huge statement that I love my child.

As it turns out, I shelved it. This was mainly as a result of my irrepressible rage and excessive wine consumption every time I thought about it. I’m glad I shelved it though. Because when I came to revisit this piece, I realised that such a post would be bloody ridiculous.

Of course I love my child, more than anything else in the world. Of course I’m a competent parent, I’ve managed to get him to the ripe old age of 5 as a healthy, happy, bright boy. But also, why the hell should I justify myself?

So instead, the new Me has decided that this post is about letting it go and having a bit of faith in myself.

Is it acceptable that I was repeatedly reduced to tears, all because one person, who is (as of yet) blissfully unaware of the all-consuming love that engulfs you as a parent, made an ill-advised comment? It’s not her fault that she doesn’t understand that level of love. That jump-in-front-of-a-train-just-to-stop-them-getting-a-chesty-cough love.

I heard a lovely phrase today… ‘to be good at family’. I know, that I am bloody amazing at family, and those who matter know I am and respect me. And if they didn’t, they wouldn’t matter.

It’s all about self-belief. Now, generally speaking, I’m not one for preaching about all that stuff, but we can’t allow ourselves to be beaten and berated by every idiotic remark from someone whose opinion is ultimately so irrelevant. We get enough negative press from ourselves and indeed our little ones. Surely, self-belief is part of being a good parent.

So go and be good at family. And everyone who thinks you aren’t can piss off.

 

Once again, lovely illustration care of Anna Lewis @ Sketchy Muma

Out Out

Incredibly, I have been able to have 2 nights out in the last month or so. But… Just to be clear, that is the first time I’ve had 2 nights out in a month for the last 6 years. When I finally experienced it, I was bogged down with an internal debate of if I’d changed vs. if the youth had changed… or both.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was awesome. Seriously. But there were lots of small aspects to it that I just couldn’t get on board with, which actually made me glad a night out generally only comes round once every 6 months or so.

My first night “out out” was a gig in Manchester… I know, who do I think I am right?! I took my amazingly glorious sister-in-law (honestly not enough superlatives for that woman) to see Richard Ashcroft, who has been my favourite artist for about 15 years.

I was so excited, and the gig was unbelievable, the best I’ve ever been to. The music was awesome, the location was perfect and the company exceptional (told you, proper girl crush).

However… We arrived at the venue, got a drink and found our spot. It was heaving, with a group of rowdy lads next to us, but we miraculously did manage to find a space we liked. It had a good view, good access to bars and toilets (turns out that’s more important when you’re old). We sat down on a Poundland poncho, (obvs well prepared) and within about 30 seconds we had a pint of overpriced lager chucked all over us in a playful coincidence. So much for the pre-arranged ‘getting ready’ time in the schedule. Ruined so very soon.

This is just a small part of the intolerance for drunken youths (this being defined as people 2 years younger than me, who weren’t unintentionally and suddenly parents before planned). It is honestly a shock initially to see this behaviour, which is essentially what I looked like a few short years ago, but fatter and in worse clothes.

I managed to get my mate kind of OK after that horrendous start, but then the unthinkable happened… we needed a wee. And a mere 50 minutes later, we were actually allowed to have one. I mean, these environments kind of stand in your way between you and your basic human right to urinate. We queued and queued, just to have the door brayed in by a drunken moron just for taking an extra 30 seconds to touch up our lipstick.

My other night “out out” was in a local city centre on the last day of the school year with teachers. You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere to be honest. And my teacher-girl-date (another Wonder Woman) was wonderfully sympathetic to the fact that I wasn’t a teacher and therefore wasn’t familiar with the many, many acronyms used in education. She went to such an effort to ensure I was happy and having a great time. It was so fun, but again, not all wine and giggles…

In addition to having a wee, we all know that another basic human need (isn’t it?) is to get a drink. Turns out this isn’t so easy on a Friday night in Leeds. Why must it be so difficult? When you finally work your way to the front of the bar (while realising that revealing your not so perky cleavage doesn’t do the trick anymore), you are faced with the dilemma of how much you’re willing to pay, versus how much you’re willing to carry, all while considering how long you can hang on until you accept ownership of having to return to that hell hole.

After a traditional Wetherspoons start, we found an amazing bar, which was such a laugh. All was going so well then all of a sudden the place just seemed to get very creepy very fast, but to be fair, it was about 2am. We decided it was probably time to leave when a stranger came over to us with 2 drinks and said, “I’ve got you these, I haven’t put drugs in them”. Now, to open an interaction with that, is… well it’s odd, let’s face it. It’s like being introduced to someone and them feeling the need to say, “Hi, I’m not a murderer”.

My least favourite thing about a night out out is that the need for food no longer waits to rear its ugly head at 4am when waiting for a taxi. I will literally eat anything greasy put in front of my gob after a couple of glasses of white wine and I will turn seriously ugly without it. In fact, I have been known to send someone out for crisps, just to manage my raging hanger on a night out.

I love a night out. I love that my awesome husband actively encourages it so he gets some quality boy time. I love spending quality time with the girls and having something to look forward to. It’s wonderful because it’s a rare treat, so I appreciate it so much.

But my favourite thing of all has become what was a punishment as a kid. My favourite days are now staying in my PJs under a duvet on the couch, watching kids films with my family and going to bed at 9. Suppose that’s parenthood for you… awesome isn’t it?

School Mum’s Guide

As a newly qualified school Mum, allow me to share my wide spread expertise on the first year of Primary School… Not for the child; there’s enough booklets, pointless information evenings and transition visits for that, This is for you… the totally unprepared Parent.

Firstly, let’s start with preparations you can make in the summer. I seriously underestimated the amount of uniform that one child would need. People always moan about the sheer volume of washing when you have a baby, but I never really got that, so was shocked and appalled at how kids can go through a jumper a day… that’s what happens when they have baked bloody beans for lunch every day. Also, socks. You’ll never have enough socks.

The school playground is the best place for one of my favourite activities- People Watching. Mainly because most of the other parents are arseholes. This will become apparent early on and your hatred will only deepen as the year goes on. They really are unbearable… but my God, they are fun to watch. At our school, we have ‘Bumbag Mum’, ‘Mrs Thinks-She’s Poppins’ and ‘Self-Obsessed Gym Mum’. OK, the last two are a bit wordy but to be fair I don’t care enough to find out their real names so I have to make them up. You will find yourself going all Katie Hopkins and making horrendous assumptions about the children (and secretly hoping your little darling will not want to mix with the offspring of your blissfully unaware enemy).

One of the most difficult aspects to school is that 4 years old is not too young for love it seems. When my son told me he loved Lilly (this ended up being 4 separate girls in total by the end of the school year) and had kissed her, I was slightly upset that I wasn’t the only woman in his life anymore. But Christ, that slight knowing-it’s-not-quite-real disappointment turned out to be nothing compared to when he got dumped. I swear to Pinot Grigio, I was hell bent on hunting down that little trollop and giving her what for. I’ve since been told, that’s not really the done thing. I still pushed in front of her at the Fair though… well and truly showed her.

Next, there’s Parents Evenings. Shockingly, it turns out that not everyone understands just how intelligent, well behaved, and generally perfect your child is. In fact, it feels like you’ve been punched in the face every time their teacher offers the tiniest bit of ‘constructive feedback’. When I was told that my son is so eager to please that he often puts up his hand despite having nothing to say, I found it difficult to hold back what was brewing inside… “OH I’M SO SORRY THAT HE ADORES YOU SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HAVE YOUR ATTENTION AND CAUSE YOU A MILD IRRITATION”.

Possibly the biggest frustration of all is that kids remember NOTHING. When they first trot off to school, you feel a bit lonely, and a bit like your arm is missing while they’re at school. You find yourself constantly wondering how they are, if they’ve made friends, does the teacher like them… but don’t worry, that passes by week two. The most irritating thing is that by the time 3pm comes and you’re desperately awaiting news of all of the above plus a full breakdown of lunch including portion sizes, it’s incredibly frustrating to repeatedly hear, “I can’t remember”. The truth is; kids are far more resilient than us and we’re far more bothered by the whole experience than they are.

When it was all over on the last day of his first school year, this became all the more apparent. I basically cried at everything. I cried at a beautiful note from his teacher, cried at how proud I was of how well he adapted to school life, cried that he made so many friends, cried that he learned to read and write, and cried that he did it all with a huge smile on his face. He had no idea what the big deal was.